Reflections on Saturday night (Giants 5, Dodgers 4)

Saturday, Sept. 4

LOS ANGELES — That was one of the damndest games I’ve seen in nearly 20 years of covering professional sports.

We’ve all witnessed bigger comebacks. Most of us probably have seen a team hit more homers in one game. But the Giants’ fierce, sudden uprising — four home runs in the final three innings, after Dodgers starter Ted Lilly held them to one hit in six innings — was downright dizzying, even for seasoned pros.

“It takes everything you can not to punch your teammate in the chest,” said Aubrey Huff, who needed a physical outlet for the excitement he felt after Juan Uribe’s two-run, ninth-inning homer put San Francisco ahead.

There’s no underestimating the magnitude of this victory for the Giants. Not only did they reclaim whatever momentum they lost after dropping Friday night’s series opener, but they also gained a game on the first-place Padres in the National League West race.

Of course, the Giants can’t stop here. They still trail San Diego by two games in the division and Wild Card leader Philadelphia by three. The thrill of Saturday night’s win will quickly ebb if they lose Sunday. And if they win Sunday — well, guess what? The magnitude of that triumph may actually eclipse Saturday’s. At this juncture and under these circumstances, each win is bigger than the next.

But as they sip vanilla milkshakes and write letters to their grandmothers before falling asleep, the Giants must allow themselves to savor this victory. Four home runs in the final three innings against the Dodgers, during a race for a postseason berth! Somewhere, Russ Hodges is bellowing, “Bye Bye Baby!” with heavenly gusto.

*****

Here’s the bad news: The Giants are still slumping, despite all those home runs.

They’re batting .163 (24-for-147) in their last five games. And the disease isn’t isolated. It’s an epidemic.

Even with his pinch-hit homer in Saturday’s eighth inning, Pat Burrell is 2-for-16.

Jose Guillen struck out in all four of his plate appearances and is 2-for-17.

Aubrey Huff is 3-for-32 in his last nine games.

Travis Ishikawa is in a 2-for-26 skid.

Buster Posey has eight hits in his last 38 at-bats (.211).

Aaron Rowand ended an 0-for-16 tailspin with his first-inning double but is hitting .128 (5-for-39) in his last 17 games.

Pablo Sandoval is in a .167 funk (4-for-24) which includes no hits in his last 12 at-bats.

Andres Torres is 1-for-16 in his last five games.

Uribe, Saturday’s hero, is 3-for-23 (.130) in an eight-game stretch.

Eli Whiteside is 10-for-56 (.179).

It’ll be intriguing to see what kind of lineup manager Bruce Bochy comes up with Sunday. Bochy likes to play the hot hand, and right now nobody fully fits that description.

*****

Giants starter Matt Cain played a key role in Saturday’s victory by holding the Dodgers scoreless for three innings after being lit up for four runs in the fourth.

“Give Matt a lot of credit for settling down,” Bochy said.

*****

An unsung hero for the Giants was Nate Schierholtz, who pinch-ran for Pat Burrell in the ninth inning and stayed in the game to play right field. You’ll recall that Jamey Carroll singled to right with one out and Casey Blake on first base. The way Carroll’s liner scissored across the outfield, it could have eluded the outfielder for an extra-base hit that would have scored Blake with the tying run. But Schierholtz, who remains one of the Giants’ best defensive outfielders, neatly cut off the ball. It wasn’t a spectacular play, but it was a necessary one.

*****

Bochy was asked whether this game eased the sting of another game at Dodger Stadium that featured plenty of late home runs: The Dodgers’ five-homer fusillade against the San Diego Padres, who Bochy then managed, on Sept. 18, 2006. After Los Angeles’ four ninth-inning homers erased San Diego’s 9-5 lead, Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run homer in the 10th to win it for the Dodgers.

“That’s a game I’d like to forget but I can’t because I see it on TV sometimes,” Bochy said.

– Chris Haft

1 Comment

More famous damnedest games I’ve been there to see (unlike a whole bunch of people who really weren’t… :) ): The Play. Two minute march down the field by John Elway to take the lead; a flubbed offside kick and five laterals for the win.

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